Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

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Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 6th December 2019

฿30 to one US Dollar
฿40 to one Pound Sterling
฿34 to one Euro
฿21 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.59 THB to one Philippine Peso

Joe

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 44,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work part time for 3 schools plus teaching online.
School A: 10 hours per week
School B: 6 hours per week
School C: 4 hours per week
Online: I'm usually booked in at 4 hours a week as schools B and C take up my evenings.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 5,000 baht, which is an absolute joke for an adult. My colleagues think I'm really getting ahead. I think they're deluded.

Aside from monthly essentials, I seem to sink 2,000 - 3,000 on ridiculously overpriced things like a visa run (as none of my three employers can seem to figure out how to process a work permit) or supplies for classes I teach that schools refuse to stock, silly things like pens and paper and board markers.

I also signed up for a gym which costs me 1,500 a month, although I paid for a year upfront and put it on a credit card. I never have time to use it as I'm always stuck in traffic going from one job to another from 7 am to 9 pm, so that was a waste of money and on weekends it's packed with idiots taking selfies of their abs or their new tits.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 11,500 for my condo.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

BTS: 3,400
Taxis: 7,200 (about half of that is re-imbursed by school B)
Motorcycles: 2,400
Getting around Bangkok is an absolute nightmare. I've never spent so much time in transit.

Utility bills

Water: 200
Electric: 1,200

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Supermarket: 6,000
Eating out: 3,000
I cook nearly all my meals and rarely eat out unless it's street food. I find most restaurants here to be poor quality and expensive.

Nightlife and drinking

2,000 a month. I rarely go out as I find the music scene here to be lacking and again venues are overpriced. For the price of a night out in a crap 'club' with very pedestrian music you can attend a 3-day festival in Europe and hear some of the best artists ever.

Books, computers

Zero. I'm still reading what I bought before I came and will never buy a laptop here as they are very overpriced.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Quite poor. I seem to be working or traveling to and from work all the time and never really earning much money.

Also, the work is utterly pointless and degrading. No one seems to be hiring full-time teachers at livable wages. As for teaching Thais, I've taught in quite a few different countries and am amazed at how Thais just don't seem interested in studying at all.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Nothing to be honest. Yes, street food is cheap but honestly, look at what's on that plate, or rather in the plastic bag. I'm constantly hunting for a filling meal that isn't 80% fat.

While condos rent out cheaper than flats in London, look at what you're getting - 20 sq meters is essentially a prison cell.

Public transport is pricey, unreliable, poorly managed and dangerously overcrowded. I'm just waiting for a fire on the BTS to take out half the population on a Tuesday morning.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I wouldn't consider living here for less than 100,000 a month. For those of us under 50 years old. we've got to manage our own retirement funds, so saving is the real reason to be working, otherwise you're just wasting your time.

I guess if you're absolutely useless and from some quiet village in Northern England then life here must be pretty amazing due to all the flashing lights, loud noises and loads of Thai people everywhere eating strange food 24/7.

For the rest of us, there are plenty of countries with cleaner air, better food, far better salaries, more ambitious people, nicer beaches, better booze and friendlier people. I just don't see the selling point of Thailand.

Phil's analysis and comment

Joe, there will be plenty of folks reading this whose reaction will be 'well, you know where the airport is'. I'm not one of those people. The main thing is that you gave it a go. And what you have found out is that Thailand is not for you. You'll move on (very shortly I guess) and hopefully you'll find what you are looking for.  Thailand isn't for everyone.  


Michael

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 100,000 Baht

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work at a small international school in Chiang Mai. I earn 35,000 baht a month teaching Monday-Friday. I also have two rental properties in the United States. After all my costs, I net 65,000 baht per month from them.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save 60,000 baht a month.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I paid $30,000 USD (1,000,000 baht) for a nice one-bedroom condo outside old town Chiang Mai. The reason I did this is because with no mortgage or rent to pay, it freed up more of my fixed income. My only cost is HOA, electric, water, and internet, which totals about 3,000-4,000 baht a month to live in my condo. If I rented this same condo with utilities it would be around 10,000-12,000 baht a month.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I have a Honda 150 cc motorbike. I spend 600 baht on gas, 500 baht on upkeep, plus a red truck to get around town once in a while. Total: 2,000 baht a month

Utility bills

Electric: 1500 baht
Water: 250 baht
Internet: 650 baht (land line 60 meg)
Phone: 400 baht

Total: 3,000 baht a month

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I try and eat from the morning markets about 80% of the time. I can eat well every day for 100 baht. I mix in some street vendors and hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurants.
Total: 5,000 baht a month

Nightlife and drinking

I try and push most of my money into this category.
Dating: 10,000 baht
Drinking: 6,000 baht
Smoking: 2,000 baht
Massage: 3,000 baht
Shopping/Movies: 1,000 baht
Total: 22,000 baht a month

Books, computers

1,500 baht a month

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I would say upper-middle class Thai level. I don't want for anything.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

The quality of life. In terms of human connection and social environment, it is so much better here than in the Western world. Here you can be yourself and date any women you desire, make friends very easily, and be treated very well. I have never experienced so much acceptance from other people. Also cheap flights around South East Asia can be had for around 5,000 baht so you can get a round-trip air ticket to any other South East Asian country.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Just to survive 20,000 baht a month. To be comfortable 40,000+ baht a month.

It really helps to build some type of passive income first in your home country. Even a simple $500 a month from renting out your house or something from investments could give you an extra 15,000-20,000 baht a month to live on, depending on the exchange rate of the time.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you for that Michael. Now here's a classic example of a teacher teaching perhaps more to keep himself busy than anything else - and there's nothing wrong with that. Actually, Michael, with a nice 65,000 baht income from your rental properties, I'm surprised that you don't go for something a little more 'part-time' and with fewer hours. Even 65,000 is probably more than enough in Chiang Mai, but I'm sure you enjoy working where you do.

After so many cost of living surveys where long-term teachers seem to have turned their back on the entertainment scene, it was strangely refreshing to hear from a teacher who likes a drink and a smoke and probably heads for home as the sun is coming up (not on a workday of course) Different strokes for different folks! You do whatever makes you happy as long as work doesn't suffer as a result.     


Marcus

Working in China

Monthly Earnings 112,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

At the current (strong baht) exchange, I make about 90,000 after tax. This is a Monday to Friday schedule with no extra teaching. I also receive an annual cash flight allowance of 80,000 and a bi-annual completion bonus of 350,000 Baht (At current rate)

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 35,000 per month ( Not counting the 160,000 per month that I don't have to pay for my 2 kids to get their A-Levels ;). I also don't include my bonus, but if I did, my monthly savings would be about 50,000.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I live in a 110m2, 3-bedroom modern apartment paid for by the school.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

Transport is about 400 baht per month. I cycle most places as there are dedicated cycle lanes throughout the city. On the weekends we take a taxi for a "supermarket run" and those get you around 3 kms for 40 Baht.

Utility bills

Electricity is about 300 Baht per month
Gas is about 100 Baht (stove plus hot water)
Winter heating is 500 per month (for 4 months)
100Mb internet connection plus phone (unlimited data) = 400 Baht

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is relatively cheap when I think about it: a take away noodle bowl can be 70 Baht but its a HUGE bowl, enough for 2 adults. Also restaurant portions are very big. They also have a lot of "all-you-can-eat" options here which are insane e.g. a seafood buffet at local hotel is 800 Baht, but it includes unlimited drinks (and that buffet had Alaskan King Crabs on the menu). Cheaper buffets run at about 300 Baht (steak, pasta, cheap sushi and free flow booze ;)

To be honest, we're still adapting to ordering the right amount of take-away food. Each time we walk into a local restaurant, point at the 3/4 pictures (multiple dishes, Thai style), and pay, we always end up with 'leftovers for days'

And it has to be said, the devil's juice is cheap - imported wine (not fruit wine) starts at 80 Baht per bottle. Local beers are between 8 - 20 Baht per can.

To actually answer the question: This family of four goes through about 40,000 Baht a month. We eat out a lot!

Nightlife and drinking

Included in the 40,000 above.

Books, computers

About 500 per month for books. Computer stuff is paid for by the school.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I wish I had moved sooner.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Life. I know it's not a market product but being able to 'be outside' with my family easily is fantastic. Being able to cycle everywhere or picnic in a selection of clean safe parks is fantastic.

We don't need to 'time everything to avoid the inevitable traffic. We can access world-class facilities with ease and people are genuinely friendly (forget the stereotypes. The only stereotype we've met is "the spitter" but other than that most people are friendly, gracious, and indifferent to you, the foreigner, and your existence.) And I say this coming from a person that speaks and reads Thai; one that has lived in Thailand for a decade and regularly goes back to visit my family.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

In Bangkok, to really survive i.e. live in the staff apartment behind Big C for 2,000 per month - 10,000 Baht would be enough (but you're never getting on another flight in your life and will end up being one of those GoFundMe stories) These days, I think at a minimum, a single person with holiday/visit the family back home aspirations needs at least 50,000 Baht.

Phil's analysis and comment

Sounds like you are having a wonderful time in China, Marcus. I guess the words 'wish I had done it sooner' say it all really. 

China is always something of a Marmite TEFL destination; teachers either love it or hate it. But no guessing as to which camp Marcus falls into and having lived and taught in Thailand for a decade, he's well-qualified to make comparisons. China certainly sounds like a place to stash away money if you are making the equivalent of 112,000 baht a month plus bonuses. 


Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here.  


Simon

Working in Phrakhanong

Monthly Earnings 160,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work at a top-tier fairly new international school (the students fees are 780,000 baht a year)

My base salary is 125,000 plus a housing allowance of 44,300. I also get worldwide medical insurance and two return flights per year. At the end of my second year, I should also receive a 10% salary bonus.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 65-70,000.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I have a 77 square metre 2-bedroom condo in Phra Khanong with pool, gym and golf carts. It's on a very smart, gated community.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

Very little as the school picks us up and drops us off each morning and evening. I spend a few hundred baht on taxis at the weekend.

Utility bills

Internet and phone is 800 baht, water is 160 baht and electricity comes to around 1,400.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This comes to around 8,000 baht a month for both supermarket shopping and eating out in restaurants.

Nightlife and drinking

4,000 baht per week.

Books, computers

Very little.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I have an excellent standard of living with long working weeks but free weekends in one of the world's best cities.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Transport, particularly internal flights around Thailand.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

If there is no housing allowance then to maintain a UK standard of living I would say 60,000 a month. If there is a housing allowance in your salary and benefits package, then possibly 40,000.

Phil's analysis and comment

As a cost of living survey, it's short and sweet but the numbers are still there. It gives you an idea of what international school teachers can earn here (and I know international school teachers who make considerably more than this) 


Tommy

Working in Sukhumvit, Bangkok

Monthly Earnings About 90,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work at a mid-range international school in Sukhumvit. My basic pay is 80,000 plus 4,000 for extra responsibility plus around 150,000 in bonuses spread out over a two year contract. I could do extra tuition in the evenings but I'm lucky enough not to need the extra cash and would prefer to use the time on hobbies.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

20-40K

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I live in a fairly nice 1-bedroom condo close to MRT Petchaburi in downtown Sukhumvit. It is 19,000 a month but recently I paid 180,000 up front for a ten-month extension so 18,000 a month. It is not a brand new building but it is nice enough: friendly and efficient security and juristic office, reasonable gym and nice pool, conference and lounge rooms etc.

My apartment itself is around 50 m2 with a double room, bathroom and large kitchen/living area equipped with a sofa bed for guests, TV, desk for me to work at, kitchen table and chairs, microwave, fridge freezer and built in electric hobs. There is no oven. There is a small balcony.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I walk and get public transport mostly. I am within walking distance to school and at the weekends I rarely venture out of Sukhumvit. Maybe 1,000 a month on MRT, BTS, canal boats combined and another 500 on motorbike and car taxis.
Not more than 1,500 baht overall.

Utility bills

Electricity roughly 1,000 a month. I am fairly frugal with it. I use air-con very low for an hour in the morning while I get ready for work and sometimes give it a quick blast if I am in for a long time and it is very hot. Mostly I just use a fan to keep cool. TV is around 600 a month and phone about the same. Water between 70 and 90 baht a month. I reckon it would be less than 3,000 a month overall.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is a tricky one to judge as I don't monitor it closely. Monday to Friday I spend 40 baht on breakfast each day - 20 baht on a big bag of fruit and 20 baht on a rice box from the friendly lady on the soi by the canal. I eat lunch for free at school.

In the evenings I either cook something simple for myself or eat locally. I reckon I spend 100 baht a day Monday to Thursday. 7/11 bills add up with things like ice creams, crisps, fruit juice drinks, grotty sandwiches and so on so call that 100 a day.

At the weekend I probably spend an average of 500 a day so overall maybe 2,000 a week. I spend about 1500 a month at Tesco on basics so overall probably around 10,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

This is a fair chunk of expenditure for me. Although I don't drink Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I go to a languages social where I practice French and Thai each Tuesday as well as out with colleagues each Friday. Then Saturday and Sunday it's anyone's guess. I would guess around 3,000 a week or 10-15,000 a month.

Books, computers

Very little - 1,000 a month spread over a few larger purchases throughout the year.

I take learning Thai very seriously and have weekly lessons with an excellent teacher that costs roughly 5,000 a month. I also do meditation and massage on a Wednesday and sometimes go on weekend trips out of Bangkok.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I live very well. I don't have to worry about what I spend, but at the same time I have a fairly frugal lifestyle anyway so it doesn't feel like I'm missing out. I can afford to do all the things I want/need to do so I'm lucky.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Eating out without question.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Some people seem to be able to get by in Bangkok living on 35 to 40K but I would say that is more or less impossible if you want any kind of nice life, especially in the middle of the city. You also need to take account of visa, passport and travel home expenses which are not mentioned here. I would not live here on less than 70K a month, but if I had to survive here I would say 50K would be the absolute minimum.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Tommy.  Now here's a guy who earns a very decent teacher salary in Bangkok (certainly for a single guy) but still lives well within his means. Although 18,000 baht a month in rent is a fair chunk of change, it's still only 20% of Tommy's salary. He's left with a massive 80% to spend on food, entertainment, travel, etc but doesn't really go overboard on any of that stuff, even choosing to be frugal with the air-conditioning. No surprises that he manages to save up to 40K some months. 

I don't disagree with Tommy's 'survival' figures either. Even 50K in Bangkok wouldn't get you much of a life these days.  

On a final note, I always wonder with well-paid international school teachers, how much of their free time the job consumes. Is there a lot of preparation and extra-curricular activities that aren't possible to turn down?  


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 301 total

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